“Song Forms: Intros that work in
G & A Major”
- Examples of Intros in Popular Songs III
- Call Me Maybe Intro – Carly Rae Jepsen
- What is a Riff
- Shining Star Intro – Earth, Wind & Fire
- What is an A major scale starting on E with an added sharp ninth
In this third post I will discuss again the intros of two new songs and some new homework. Let’s do it!
Examples of Intros in Popular Songs III
“Call Me Maybe Intro – Carly Rae Jepsen”
This is really a very simple two bar intro with only one instrument: Pizzicato Strings. It works really well to set up the mood of this song.
Carly is looking outside her window waiting to make contact with this sexy gardener. So this is reflected in the pizzicato strings which imitates the ticking of a clock, Carly’s waiting for the big moment.
The official video of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen:
The pizzicato strings play the 5th, D, and the root, G, on top. It outlines the I chord, which is G (g – b – d). However the 3rd, B, is not played here to reflect the ticking of a clock. If the 3rd was played the tension would not be that strong anymore.
This pattern continues on the background during the first vocal verse. It stops when the chorus enters and comes back when the second verse continues. In both verses Carly continues to try to fancy the gardener, reflecting the tension of time.
“What is a Riff”
Because this is going to be an important part of the intro of the next song, it will be helpful to explain what a “riff” is. A “riff” is a recurring phrase, usually short of length, often played over changing chords but in some instances can also stand on itself.
“Shining Star Intro – Earth, Wind & Fire”
This intro is quite different. Instead of using chords to outline a pattern, this song uses a two bar riff or motif to set up the mood and verse.
It is played together by the electric guitar, electric piano (rhodes) and partly electric bass. It works very well to set up the entrance of the main groove in bar five.
The studio version of “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire:
And here is a great performance of the same song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Notice how much energy these guys have:
This two bar “riff” is repeated twice, with the exception of the third and fourth beats of bar four. In this third beat, electric guitar, electric piano and electric bass are all doubling on the same motif.
This is to finalize the end of this section on the fourth beat. Here all instruments will come to a full stop played by the two accented sixteenth notes. We could call those notes “kicks” because the whole band is playing them.
The bass comes in at bar three playing a similar riff as the guitar, but without sixteenth notes. This is to create contrast and support. Please look at the transcription below:
First, do you see the two letters N.C. above the muted electric guitar in bar one? It means “No Chord“, only the riffs are played.
Continuing with the electric guitar and bass. Both are transposing instruments. That means that the actual sound of these is not the same as where it is written. Guitar and bass sound one octave lower than written.
So the score above shows the written version. When we would write out the sounding (concert) score it would look like this:
“What is an A Major Scale starting on E with an added Sharp Ninth”
What scale is used here? Please look at the chart below:
At first glance this scale looks strange. Don’t worry, I will explain everything step by step.
When looking at the key signature you will see three sharps and that means it is in the key of A Major. Correct, but instead of starting on the first note of the A major scale, it starts on the fifth which is E.
In short, in music theory we call the first note (degree) of a scale the “tonic“, the fourth note the “subdominant” and the fifth the “dominant“. So this intro starts on the dominant, E, of the A major scale.
When we look further we see that an extra note, G, is added which doesn’t belong in this scale. Why is that? Well, it is to add extra colour and it also reflects the mood and style of the music.
Funk music, originally comes from the blues and in this style the minor pentatonic scale is often used. To spell out this scale starting on E comes to E, G, A, B, D and E. The “blues” as you probably already know reflects pain and sadness, so hence the G.
Then later on when Funk came along the minor and major 3rds of a scale were both used together. Because the G is an outside note here, it is labelled as a sharp nine (#9). These extra coloured notes are called ‘tensions“.
So why is this note labelled sharp nine (#9)?
When we start counting from E as number one and continue up the scale to number eight we arrive at the next E. When we continue to count one more step up we come to number nine (9) which is F sharp (F#).
This is where the groove starts. It serves to set up the vocal in bar nine. The el. guitar in the top stave plays a E7(#9) chord using a one bar rhythmic pattern, the el. piano plays the same chord as the guitar (but using a different pattern) and the el. bass doubles the bass drum pattern.
For now just play the G#, D and G, as written in the guitar part, in your right hand. Play an E in your left hand at the same time and experiment around with it. In my next post I will discuss into great detail how a 7(#9) chord is used in intros and where it comes from.
Your assignment for this post is to compose on your keyboard a four bar intro with a riff (no chords) and a four bar chord progression which will serve as the verse. You can use “Shining Star” as your example. Make sure that your riff in the last bar connects well with the first chord in the fifth bar.
A recap of today’s post:
- I’ve discussed how the intro is used in “Call Me Maybe”
- I’ve given you the definition of a “Riff”
- I’ve discussed how the intro is used in “Shining Star”
- I’ve explained how to use an A major scale, starting on E with an added sharp nine (#9)
- I’ve given you an assignment to compose an other intro based on “Shining Star”
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The next installment of Popular Song Intros will deal with “Dominant Seventh Sharp Ninth” chords.
About the Author:
Hans Hansen is the author and founder of “The Music Arrangers Page” and is always happy to share his passion for music arranging. In addition, he is a well experienced piano & bass guitar teacher, specializing in classical, rock and jazz. Any questions you have about music arranging; he is the person to ask. He also likes to invite you to download his Special Free Gift and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter or leave a comment on his blog.